Why ceremony matters
The need for ceremony is embedded in our DNA. Across all languages and cultures and throughout time, people have gathered to process important milestones, to celebrate special moments, and to cultivate culture enfuzed with a collective vision and values.
Ceremony provides a shared experience that helps us bond together, transforming connections into true relationships and building an authentic community.
As organizers, many of us fail to approach our events as ceremonies. We rely on already established formats and fail to push ourselves to be creative in the design process. We do this because it’s easier, we don’t have time, or we lack the how-to knowledge.
In addition, the growing narrative influenced by the western business world makes many of us set up a dichotomy of “work” versus “personal” which leads to the creation of cold, impersonal spaces using trite design approaches. While healthy boundaries should be established, to assume that impersonal, colorless environments leads to healthy environments is a false equivalence.
In fact, in many circles, like that of the Internet Freedom community, the separation of work and personal doesn’t exist. Why? Because for many people the work is both extremely personal and requires having a deep level of trust with peers. Nathalie Marechal
This is the same for other social movement circles where “work” can potentially put an individual’s family at risk economically, physically and/or mentally.
Ceremony, when done with intention, bridges the gap between the personal and the professional. Not approaching your event design with this mindset is a missed opportunity for organizers.
When get a group of people to feel connected to each other in a humane way, a cultural transformation takes place that leads to dramatically positive outcomes.
People start caring about each other’s well being; the environment becomes more relaxed and creative; and collaborations become more productive.
The first step to creating an effective ceremony is to both understand and become comfortable with your role as a magician. As organizers, we fail to accept and embrace the impact and magic we can have on our community. While personal blocks and/or organizational challenges may be the root cause, it is dangerous as it blinds us of the real responsibilities we have to create safer spaces and, in the long term, shape a better culture. For communities that spend a large chunk of time working virtually, those rare IRL moments are crucial to these goals. In fact, the more comfortable we become with our role, the better we understand what we owe our communities and begin to modify our approach.
To help with this goal, talk to trusted community members and ask them how they see your role and how your role can change to better serve them. Also, have conversations with organizers about what responsibilities are crucial to our roles to establish healthier organizations and networks. With this foundational information, you can begin to approach your event as a true ceremony for your community.
Co-founder and Strategic Advisor of the Internet Freedom Festival
Also published on the Internet Freedom Festival Community Stories Medium Publication.